The Big Three US Car Companies

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The automotive industry is always changing and growing, especially as the companies try to create cars that save gas money and are more environmentally friendly. The Big Three US Car Companies are not left out, and they are:

  1. General Motors
  2. Ford
  3. Fiat Chrysler

The Big Three

While the US wasn’t the first country to invent the automobile, they weren’t far behind in the industry once it was developed. In fact, America quickly dominated the automotive industry for the first half of the twentieth century. Henry Ford invented mass-production techniques that are now the standard, and the Big Three emerged by the 1920s.

The Big Three maintained a majority of the car sales in the world up until an oil crisis in 1973 that gave the small, fuel-efficient cars created by Japan a leg up in the auto industry. This made the competition risky since none of the Big Three had real plans to make more fuel-efficient cars. As they struggled to keep up, they all slowly declined into or near bankruptcy as they competed with Japanese automakers for the top spots in the world.

In 2008, President George Bush created an emergency financial rescue plan to help the Big Three prevent a collapse of the US auto industry. The only condition was a rebuild of the companies. GM and Fiat Chrysler both wound up filing for bankruptcy, and Ford was able to stay afloat and had enough emergency cash to allocate.

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Now, the Big Three have risen as the automotive industry continues to change with the new Age of Electronics. In 2017 in the US, GM and Ford both beat out Toyota in the year sales with GMs 3 million cars sold and Fords 2.59 million cars versus Toyotas 2.43 million cars sold.

History of General Motors (GM) – Detroit, Michigan

General Motors (GM) was the largest motor-vehicle manufacturer of the entire world for most of the 20th to 21st centuries. Founded in 1908 by William C. Durant, he consolidated companies like Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Oakland, and later Pontiac. Now, GM owns the following car companies:

  • Buick
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • GMC

William C. Durant changed the motor industry when he introduced the first electric self-starter in 1912 with Cadillac. After some disorganization of finances and other important parts of the company, Durant was forced out of his presidency and succeeded by Alfred P. Sloan Jr.

After a battle of the automobiles, GM surpassed Ford in 1929 and became the leading passenger-car manufacturer. In 1931, they became the world’s largest manufacturer. By 1941 before World War II, they made up 44% of all cars in the US and became one of the largest industrial corporations in the world.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, they maintained about 40-45% of total US car sales but faced the troubles of the 1970s and 80s because of the oil crisis. They tried to create a competitor for the small vehicles with Saturn, but eventually faced losses. In the 90s, the company closed plants and reduced jobs by the thousands. They were able to make a recovery, and they even surpassed Toyota as the world’s largest automaker again in 2008. In June 2009, they filed for bankruptcy but emerged out if by the next month. They continued to go back-and-forth for the largest automaker in the world, but after a scandal regarding faulty ignition switches in 2014, people admired the way they handled it and their sales have been record breaking the last 3 years.

History of Ford – Dearborn, Michigan

Ford’s history first began when Henry Ford built the first Ford car 1903 and created the company with 11 other investors. By 1919, he had full ownership and even his heirs owned a majority of the stocks until 1956. They sold passenger cars, trucks, tractors, car parts, and car accessories. Now, Ford consists of:

  • Lincoln
  • Small stake of Mazda

Henry Ford built an experimental car in his backyard in 1896. After his first Ford car in 1903, he created the successful Model T in 1908. Due to demand, he established the industries first US assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri in 1911, and he had one overseas in Manchester, England in 1913. By mid-1914, over 500,000 Model Ts had been sold and by 1923, they were producing over half of America’s automobiles.

As they continued to produce more models in demand for the growing times and competition, they began a limited diversification in the 50s and 60s. As mentioned, they started to suffer greatly because of the demand for more smaller vehicles in the 1970s and 80s. In the 1990s, they refocused on their goals.

Unlike GM and Fiat Chrysler, Ford was able to avoid bankruptcy and the government aid. Because of this, they experienced an increase in sales. Between 2010 and 2016, they saw their sales slug, so they implemented the Ford Smart Mobility to grow and invest in new opportunities. In 2017, they announced their plans to create more electric cars.

History of Fiat Chrysler

Unlike Ford and GM that have clear histories of where it all started, Fiat Chrysler has been through it all. The company originally started as Maxwell Motor Company in 1913, experiencing a lot of ups and downs until Walter P. Chrysler took over in 1925 and changed the history of the company. Now, Fiat Chrysler owns:

  • Dodge
  • Ferrari
  • Jeep
  • Maserati
  • Ram


While getting a late start to the car industry, they were still able to follow in the shoes of Ford and GM to help the cause of World War II. In the 50s and 60s, they created the “muscle cars” with the C-300 in 1955 and the 300 F in 1960.

Suffering from the oil crisis, the new president appealed to the government for a loan of $1.5 billion in 1979 and it was officially approved in 1980. By 1983, they had paid the loan amount and interest back. That same year, they developed the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager – the first minivans created. For families, this was a new and innovative item to have.

After joining with Daimler-Benz in 1998, they experienced poor performance in sales, so they closed Plymouth down. With a continued struggle, Daimler cut Chrysler, but they were quickly bought and changed to Chrysler LLC.

Alongside GM, they filed bankruptcy in 2009 and they finalized a share with Fiat not long after. In 2011, they paid back any loans they had, and Fiat became a majority of the shareholder for Chrysler. In 2014, Fiat officially had full ownership and they became Fiat Chrysler.

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